Perhaps the most oft-shared social media post in Carroll County online communities last week was a letter sent from the superintendent of Jefferson County (West Virginia) Schools. Essentially, it says the first snow of the year is a great time for families to spend the day together and make memories, so schools would be “completely closed” for everybody to take a snow day Wednesday. “For just a moment, we can all let go of the worry of making up for the many things we missed by making sure this is one thing our kids won’t lose this year.” The letter ended telling students to go build a snowman.
It’s a nice, if idealized, sentiment and we understand why so many parents locally were sharing it, calling those who run Carroll County Public Schools Grinches or Scrooges or worse because CCPS students did not have a snow day, instead going on with business as usual Wednesday, learning virtually.
But exactly one week after the Carroll County Board of Education meeting included a lengthy discussion about how poorly many are doing academically — with students five-and-half times more likely to receive a failing grade and with some 11,000 fewer A’s having been earned in the first quarter this year than last — telling students to take the day off despite having the technology for them to go through a completely normal school day would’ve been the wrong message to send. Particularly with an 11-day break starting this week.
Poor grades and falling behind will have consequences. The poor first-quarter showing on the heels of three months of little learning throughout Maryland after the state shut down schools in mid-March will put many students into a significant hole they might spend the rest of their academic careers trying to dig out of.
The virtual learning model is criticized as either not being rigorous enough or being too rigorous. Kids either don’t have enough to do or have way too much to do. Numerous parents have complained that they don’t get paid to provide the educational help their child needs while far too many students are rarely if ever checking in or doing their work online. So the same parents who are too busy to help with schoolwork or to ensure their kids are in the virtual classroom suddenly had all day to play in the snow with them?
Of course, many calling for the snow day have kids who are flourishing, could easily afford to take a day off and, realistically, probably did. Wednesdays are supposed to be largely synchronous anyway, meaning students have more freedom to work at their own pace, on their own time, giving them plenty of opportunities throughout the day to sneak out for some sled riding or snowman building. Some teachers, in fact, gave students assignments to do exactly that.
We have no problem with any of the above. But we are glad students who aren’t doing well, who are trying to understand material and get caught up, had the opportunity to do so. We hope teachers were able to give those students extra attention Wednesday.
One of the only positives of the pandemic is that it pushed CCPS forward technologically. Virtual learning can eliminate missed days for inclement weather, which can mean more holidays off, a longer spring break and/or an earlier start to summer vacation.
As for the snow and making family memories? Plenty of the white stuff was still on the ground Wednesday evening. And Thursday and Friday and, indeed, this weekend. No reason kids and families couldn’t build a snowman without missing a full day of school.